Pennsylvania Senators Dan Laughlin (R) and Sharif Street (D) have proposed legislation to legalize cannabis in Pennsylvania. Senate Bill 84 includes an 8% sales tax, 5% excise tax, restrictions on marketing to youth, expungement of prior cannabis convictions, and other social justice measures, such as social and economic equity licenses. Given the legalization of cannabis in Pennsylvania-border states, such as New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Ohio, the legalization of cannabis in Pennsylvania is necessary to ensure PA cannabis consumers purchase their products in state, which will allow the Commonwealth to enjoy the associated tax revenue, and PA residents to enjoy the economic benefits, such as more jobs and construction, associated with expanding the current medical marijuana program.
This week, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed into law a bill that legalizes recreational cannabis for adults 21 and older. The law goes into effect on August 1, 2023, and will permit adults to have up to two pounds of marijuana at home and two ounces while in public. The law also creates a new regulatory framework for licenses to cultivate, manufacture and sell cannabis at retail dispensaries. Until the regulations are drafted and licenses are issued, the sale of cannabis in Minnesota remains illegal without a license. Licensed retail dispensaries are expected to open within 12-18 months.
Under the law, non-felony cannabis offenses will be automatically expunged and a board will be established to review more serious crimes involving cannabis.
In the wake of the new law, the St. Paul, MN office of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (“ATF”) issued an advisory warning that Minnesotans who use cannabis cannot legally own firearms. This is because cannabis remains a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law.
The ATF warning said, “Until marijuana is legalized federally, firearms owners and possessors should be mindful that it remains federally illegal to mix marijuana with firearms and ammunition.”
The MSOs rallied 7% last week on the back of a bipartisan group of lawmakers reintroducing the SAFE Banking Act. The bill has a 0% chance of passing without hearing from Senator Mitch McConnell. In reality, SAFE does not change much for the industry. Other reform elements around 280e taxes, interstate commerce, and an updated Cole memo are more impactful to the industry’s fundamentals. Unfortunately, lawmakers in Washington, DC, have had difficulty passing modest cannabis reform for several reasons, including the following:
- Playing Politics: The cannabis reform issue has become highly politicized, with Democrats typically favoring legalization and Republicans generally opposing it. This is because cannabis reform has become a highly controversial topic, with politicians more concerned with political posturing and pleasing their base than with finding common ground; this can make it difficult to pass any meaningful reform measures.
- No consensus: Even among people who favor cannabis reform, there may be differing opinions regarding the strategy that should be utilized. Some people may push for marijuana to be fully legalized, while others may merely favor incremental reform measures such as decriminalization or the legalization of medical marijuana. Because of this, it may be challenging to arrive at a consensus that has the potential to gain enough support to enact legislation.
- A seemingly insurmountable conflict: even though several states have decriminalized cannabis in some form, the drug is still Schedule 1, making it against the law on the federal level. Because of this, there is a potential for legislation at the state and federal levels to contradict one another, making it more challenging to enact effective rules and regulations.
- Lobbying and special interests: The cannabis sector in prohibition is in its infancy and rapidly undergoing change; as a result, a significant number of conflicting interests and stakeholders are involved. Lobbying efforts by these organizations (esp. pharma, tobacco, and alcohol) can sway legislators’ attitudes about the matter at hand and make it more challenging to enact reform measures that might not serve the interests of the lobbying organizations.
In general, achieving cannabis reform in D.C. is a complicated subject incorporating various elements, including political, social, and economic considerations. Even while there may be widespread popular support for cannabis law reform, D.C. is unlikely to change the challenging process actually to bring about significant change.
In the Nov. 8 midterm elections, voters in both Maryland and Missouri approved legalization of cannabis for adult use, while voters in Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota voted no on legalization.
With the passage in Maryland and Missouri, 21 states as well as the District of Columbia have now legalized cannabis for adult use, and another 16 states permit cannabis for medical use.
Despite the fact that nearly half of all states have now legalized cannabis for adult use, it remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule I drug, along with drugs like heroin and LSD. Such a classification means that cannabis has a high potential for abuse and has no acceptable medical use, despite research to the contrary.
On September 9, 2022, the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission issued interim guidance for employers on drug testing employees for cannabis. Since the legalization of recreational marijuana for adults 21 years of age or older, New Jersey employers are expected to follow certain procedures associated with drug testing employees based on reasonable suspicion of impairment. Until specific regulations are issued, the commission has provided interim guidance to clear some of the haze for employers trying to navigate compliance with New Jersey’s cannabis law.
To read the full text of this Duane Morris Alert, please visit the firm website.
More than a year after introducing a first draft, U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) finally introduced their proposed marijuana legislation, the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) on Thursday, July 21.
The CAOA is a comprehensive bill that would not only permit cannabis companies to access the banking system but would legalize and decriminalize recreational cannabis with an eye toward supporting communities that have been most impacted by the war on drugs. The CAOA also provides for cannabis industry workers’ rights, a federal responsibility to set an impaired driving standard, expungements of criminal records and penalties for possessing or distributing large quantities of marijuana without a federal permit. It would also create a new federal definition for hemp that would increase the permissible THC by dry weight to 0.7 percent from the current 0.3 percent, and the definition would include all THC isomers, not just delta-9 THC. Other features of the bill include grant programs for small business owners hoping to enter the industry who come from communities that were disproportionately affected by the war on drugs, increased funding for law enforcement for illegal cultivation, and cannabis marketing restrictions.
Under the proposal, the Drug Enforcement Administration would no longer have jurisdiction over cannabis and would be regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) within the Treasury Department. The bill proposes a 5% to 12.5% excise tax for small and mid-sized cannabis producers. It would charge an initial tax of 10% on larger cannabis businesses and gradually increase it to 25%.
The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism chaired by Booker scheduled a hearing for Tuesday, July 26 titled, “Decriminalizing Cannabis at the Federal Level: Necessary Steps to Address Past Harms.”
While the bill is unlikely to garner the required 60 votes to pass in the Senate, many see it as a first step toward opening the cannabis debate on Capitol Hill and passing incremental reform that could finally end the federal prohibition on cannabis.
As we have previously reported, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation multiple times in the past few years that would decriminalize cannabis and allow cannabis businesses to access the federal banking system. However, none of those measures have yet made it to the Senate floor.
Key Cannabis Industry Projections and Trends from the New Frontier Data’s Recently Released 2022 U.S. Cannabis Report
- With a combined 148 million Americans living across those 19 adult-use states, and 248 million living across the 39 medical-use states, 44% of American adults now have access to legal adult use cannabis, and nearly three-quarters (74%) of the country now have access to legal medical cannabis in some form. Conversely, 89 million Americans (26% of the U.S. population) live in states where possession and use of cannabis remain illegal.
- The US legal marijuana industry could surpass $72 billion by 2030 (assuming that an additional 18 states will legalize adult-use marijuana or comprehensive medical marijuana programs by then (with the current legal states reaching $57 billion by 2030), up from $32 billion this year.
- Self-reported usage rates have risen sharply since 2012, and if this is sustained, the number of U.S. consumers will grow from 47 million in 2020 to 71 million by 2030.
- U.S. medical markets continue to expand, with the number of registered patients forecast to increase to 5.7 million in 2030 (1.6% of the adult population).
- Assuming legalization in all 18 potential markets by 2030, 47% of total demand would be met by the legal cannabis purchases, up from 27% in 2021, indicating continued disruption of illicit markets.
- Despite strong state-level momentum, the near-term prospects for federal reform are dim, but a limited measure, like cannabis banking reform, is possible following the 2022 mid-term elections.
Duane Morris partner Michael Schwamm was quoted in an article on WealthManagement.com.
The past few years have brought cannabis legalization to multiple states, giving real estate investors a new alternative asset class to put their money into. It looks like this trend is only going to intensify in the months ahead.
As we get further into 2022, all U.S. states without current medical cannabis legalization are now considering legislation or ballot initiatives to legalize it. In addition, some states where medical cannabis is already legal may take the next step this year to allow adult recreational use. […]
Twenty-one additional states may legalize cannabis use in some form this year, according to Michael Schwamm, a partner in the New York office of the law firm Duane Morris. […]
“Real estate investing (along with ancillary services) is often the entry point for many investors,” Schwamm adds. “As the industry continues to gain acceptance, I am seeing more and more traditional real estate investors taking a look at this market as they are able to get higher returns in the cannabis sector vs. other [real estate] markets.”
To read the full text of this article, please visit the WealthManagement.com website.
On February 22, 2021, Governor Murphy signed into law The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act, regulating cannabis use and possession for adults 21 years and older. The ratification of the bill follows a protracted legislative logjam since Election Day, when New Jersey voters overwhelmingly approved a mandate to provide the infrastructure for the legalization of cannabis in the state. The legalization immediately decriminalizes certain amounts of marijuana and hashish statewide. Meanwhile, the recreational production and sale remains subject to regulatory schemes not yet enacted.
Today, the House of Representatives passed the groundbreaking MORE Act – legalizing marijuana at the federal level. The bill passed by a vote of 228 to 164.
As we previously discussed in our November 10th and September 4th blog posts, the MORE Act (Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019 – H.R. 3884) legalizes marijuana and cannabis at the federal level, by removing them from the Controlled Substances Act and eliminates some cannabis criminal records.
While the bill represents a first step toward legalizing cannabis, states would need to adopt similar measures to fully decriminalize its use – currently, 15 states and the District of Columbia have legalized (or recently voted to legalize) cannabis for adult recreational use, and 35 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical cannabis.
The bill also makes other changes, including:
- Replaces statutory references to marijuana and marihuana with cannabis,
- Requires the Bureau of Labor Statistics to regularly publish demographic data on cannabis business owners and employees,
- Establishes a trust fund to support various programs and services for individuals and businesses in communities impacted by the war on drugs,
- Imposes a 5% tax on cannabis products and requires revenues to be deposited into the trust fund,
- Makes Small Business Administration loans and services available to entities that are cannabis-related legitimate businesses or service providers,
- Prohibits the denial of federal public benefits to a person on the basis of certain cannabis-related conduct or convictions,
- Prohibits the denial of benefits and protections under immigration laws on the basis of a cannabis-related event (e.g., conduct or a conviction), and
- Establishes a process to expunge convictions and conduct sentencing review hearings related to federal cannabis offenses.
While Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), the Vice President-Elect, introduced a counterpart bill (S.2227) in the U.S. Senate, its passage in the chamber is unlikely this Congress as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has declined to endorse the bill.
While this legislation is unlikely to pass the Senate this Congress, proponents of cannabis legalization have hailed the House vote as historic, and an important first step toward generating the momentum and support needed to favorably position the measure for future congressional consideration. And whether the measure would be approved by the next Congress likely depends on the outcome of the two Georgia Senate runoff elections scheduled for January 5, 2021. If both Democratic Senate candidates, Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock, win the runoffs, then the Democrats will control both the House and Senate, with Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote.
However, it is unclear if President-Elect Joe Biden would sign the bill since he has proposed rescheduling cannabis as a schedule II drug so researchers can study its positive and negative impacts as opposed to removing it entirely from the list of scheduled substances. While Biden has expressed support for decriminalization of marijuana, expungement of prior cannabis use convictions, and legalizing cannabis use for medical purposes – he has said he wants to leave decisions regarding adult recreational use to the individual states. Nonetheless, marijuana legalization advocates believe this symbolic vote on the legislation could send a strong signal to the Biden administration that this is a Democratic priority.
Even though federal legalization may not be on the immediate horizon, the passage of the MORE Act in the House, and the legalization of adult-use and/or medical marijuana in five more states on November 3, 2020, could influence a Biden-appointed attorney general’s views on enforcement of marijuana related activities. While AG Sessions attempted to reverse the liberal Obama administration marijuana policies set forth in the Cole Memorandum, and AG Barr has reluctantly acknowledged that the Cole priorities have been relied on and should thus be followed, an AG appointed by Biden, given the current pro-legalization wave, Biden’s favoring of state’s rights on this issue, and Kamala Harris’s favoring of decriminalization, might endorse an approach consistent with, if not even more liberal than, the Cole priorities. Thus, while the appointment of AG Sessions sent shockwaves through the cannabis industry, market participants and those who have been standing on the sidelines eager to get on the field seem to have a lot to look forward to.